Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

Irish A-to-Z: Tommy Kraemer

The lead candidate to start at right tackle exit the spring, Kraemer could fill future starting roles at both tackle and guard over his next four seasons in South Bend.

  • Class: Sophomore (Eligibility 4)
  • On the depth chart: No. 1A  ahead of classmate Liam Eichenberg
  • Post-spring status: Ascending

A consensus four-star prospect and Scout.com’s 37th ranked player overall, Kraemer is the highest rated offensive line prospect to commit to Brian Kelly in the coach’s eight recruiting cycles, nine spots ahead of senior teammate and 2017 captain, Quenton Nelson.

From those outside the program’s walls, Kraemer appeared to begin and end spring ball as the team’s starting right tackle – the lone newbie alongside a returning quartet from last fall.

His summer progress in comparison with classmate Liam Eichenberg will ultimately determine the pairs’ 2017 slotting in the rotation – one will start, the other will be the first tackle, or perhaps even guard, off the bench, especially if an injury fells a starter long-term.

QUOTABLE

“He’s also played a lot of right guard. It wouldn’t be a big adjustment for him.” – Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand on Kraemer’s versatility

BEST CASE SCENARIO

A starting right tackle role in which Kraemer provides, alongside guard Alex Bars, a solid complement to the line’s All-American duo on the left.

But growing pains are likely as it was clear during the spring game that Kraemer’s run blocking acumen is (understandably) ahead of his skills in pass protection.

“Dealing with the space out there. Dealing with people not right in front of you. It takes a little time,” said Hiestand of both Kraemer and Eichenberg during spring evaluations. “He can get his body a little bit out of whack. Getting his body together is a process. He’s steadily improving that but he can sometimes look a little out of position and that’s something he’s working on.”

Kraemer and Bars combine for more than 630 pounds of power at the point of attack. If they can turn the Irish offensive front into a cohesive quintet, a few of the expected hiccups in pass protection will be worth it in the end.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

A rough season protecting Brandon Wimbush’s right side, one similar to the plight of sophomore starter Steven Elmer circa 2014. A natural guard, Elmer was miscast as the starting right tackle for Everett Golson’s senior season in ’14. Three games into the fray, he was moved inside where he remained for the duration of his career.

It’s understandable that Kraemer begin his career at right tackle. After all, Bars is probably a better guard than tackle – and at present, a better guard than Kraemer. But if Kraemer scuffles on the edge, it could lead not only to a position switch, but a personnel change to Eichenberg in what is clearly the most important season of the Kelly Era in South Bend.

The worst-case scenario for a talent such as Kraemer as he’s forced to change mid-stream, thus affecting the development of the 2017 line as a whole.

CAREER COMPARISON

The following multi-season starters first redshirted under the Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly regimes: Braxston Cave, Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Christian Lombard, Mike McGlinchey, Sam Mustipher, Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars – now Kraemer and Eichenberg are expected to follow suit

Kraemer’s second season career arc – including the question if he’s a better guard or tackle prospect – is commensurate with Bars, though the latter was beaten out for a starting spot by his classmate Nelson in 2015.

It would be a stretch to say Kraemer is as game-ready as was Nelson in Year 2. But it would be a compliment at season’s end to say his second season at the program surpassed that of Bars, who started twice as a sophomore for what might have been the best offensive line at the program in the new millennium.


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